Monday, 26 April 2010

My Alice or Your Alice?

Alice in Wonderland is unquestionably a fantasy story, full of fairy tale and imagination. Carroll insists on a philosophy that reality is merely a personal construction, where everyone’s reality is different, and it is essentially, all in our minds.

As readers, we are encouraged to make our own assumptions and interpretations about what we are reading. Carroll offers very little in the way of any descriptions, of either characters or situations. The descriptions in the text are just enough to reinforce the story, but vague enough that the reader can let their imagination run wild.

So why is it, that almost everyone would describe Alice as a blonde little Victorian girl in a blue dress?

While many would argue that John Tenniel’s illustrations are second to none, and work with Carroll’s words to form one of the best collaborations in children’s literature. I would like to suggest that maybe they are not so brilliant. As drawings, they are beautiful, but they do leave every reader with the same visual interpretation of the characters. Leaving very little room for imagination.

Maybe Carroll thought it necessary to follow the convention that seems to state that all children’s books must be illustrated. Or maybe it was the idea that in a story requiring so much imagination, just to follow the plot, allowing readers to conjure up their own visual ideas as well, is a step to far.

I must confess, that to me, the first image of Alice I think of is not that of Tenniel’s illustrations. As a child of the 90’s, I instantly think of the animated little girl from Walt Disney’s heart-warming version of the story. But even that interpretation, has clearly been derived from Tenniel’s illustrations.

Perhaps more recently, in Tim Burton’s version, the characters are a bit different, a bit more sombre and unique. But if you really think about it, they owe a lot to the original illustrations too.

To be perfectly honest, the more I think about it, the more I am left wishing I could go back to my childhood, before I ever encountered anyone else’s Alice’s, and read the story with no pictures. See what my own imagination could come up with, when left totally to it’s own devices. I think everyone should be allowed that chance to create his or her own Alice. If Alice is allowed to journey through Wonderland making her own assumptions about the people and characters she meets, why couldn’t we be given the same luxury?

Johan Nilsson's Alice.

You can see more of Johan's Work here -

This ramble was written by YEAH's Co-Editor and Art Director Stevie.

You can read more of her ramblings at

Watch this space for more steve-ramblings on our blog, and more updates on YEAH's Alice in Wonderland One Off.


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